Smokey

A little gold Wyandotte bantam named Smokey has lived a long and happy life. He had great looks, a super little crow unlike any other male and a lovely warm personality. His lovely dapper gait and the supreme gloss of his feathers, all adding up to quite a character. We knew as we entered 2016 his days were numbered. We reckon he must have been at least 7 years old. His last year with us was not quite what we expected.

Smokey

Unfortunately, his health was a constant worry as he suffered from numerous eye infections during the summer, which culminated in a tumour during December. We very reluctantly put him to sleep to end his suffering.

He started out in life back in 2009 and became a pin up for our new collection of Brahmas. I guess he really became their mascot. Where ever the Brahmas went Smokey was sure to follow. He just loved being with these big guys. Even more remarkable as his sleeping quarters were down the hill at the other end of the garden, in a coop devoted to mixed bantams.

Apart from his love of the Brahmas, he was largely a solo act who was happy with his own company and occasionally that of admiring female bantams. He is being missed already. We are left with very fond memories to treasure.

Posted in In Memoriam | Leave a comment

Fraser – The Co-pilot of the Lohmann Browns

Fraser was a rather handsome Silver Laced Wyandotte bantam, who’s main concern in his later years was looking after the many females of the Lohmann Brown flock.

Fraser

He has been with us for over 7 years and has assisted a number of different leaders of the flock. His first appearance as a youngster was life changing. He made a dash for the Black Rock girls in a neighbouring flock. This was a huge mistake as Troy, the cockerel and leader of the flock jumped at him violently and in a flash poor Fraser lost an eye.

Fraser soon got over this incident and remained a very loyal second in command. He also helped to break up fights between younger males. Sleep peacefully old friend, you are missed!

Posted in In Memoriam, Poultry Chat | Leave a comment

Solitaire a Belgium Bantam

Solitaire as a Lonesome Chick
Solitaire arrived to us via the Royal Mail, as a hatching egg from Ebay. I remember ordering some Brahma hatching eggs, she was the only egg that hatched. The chick didn’t look quite right for a Brahma, for a start she was tiny. Unfortunately, being the only chick she had no friends. As we placed her in the brooder, we scratched our heads over what to do. A mirror worked for a short time, a small teddy went down well. At night she would go to sleep under one of its arms. Eventually we got the only thing she really wanted, which was another chick. Donald the hen man had a chick which he kindly gave to us. Her new friend was an araucana chick, quite a bit larger than Solitaire. Nevertheless, they both quickly cemented their friendship.

It was a delight to watch Solitaire with her new friend, who we called Mystique on account that at the time we had no idea what breed she was. It was clear that she was growing larger than Solitaire by quite a margin. When they got much older, you couldn’t separate them, where ever Mystique was, Solitaire was there by her side.

Solitaire and Mystique

Solitaire has repaid our attention to her needs in bucketfuls. Whenever we had a problem with chicks, it was dependable Solitaire who came to the rescue. We can’t count the number of chicks she has brought up. On numerous occasions she has been a foster mum to many chicks bought from Ebay as hatching eggs. Not content with that, Solitaire has come to the rescue when a broody has decided she’s fed up with sitting on eggs. Her life revolved around hatching eggs and chicks. Whenever she saw chicks, she immediately adopted them. It was also the same with eggs. A clutch of warm eggs were irresistible to her as she carefully rolled one after another underneath her small breast.

Solitaire with Chicks

Solitaire for most of her life (6 years) lived with a flock of Japanese bantams. Our Japanese bantams go broody at the drop of a hat and they also sit on eggs as a mothers co-operative. Several hens sit on a clutch of eggs together, they take it in turns to go out of the coop to drink and feed. When the eggs hatch and the chicks are ready to go outside into the run, all of the several mothers escort the youngsters outside. Solitaire was always in the scrum ready to do her bit.

Solitaire

She died a week ago, sadly from some sort of cancer. At first we thought she had Mycoplasma and treated her with antibiotics to no effect sadly. We put her out of her misery once we realised it was the end. Most of our birds are incinerated when they die, but with Solitaire it was different, we buried her in the garden to remind ourselves of her unique personality and how we miss her presence. She gave us a lot of joy, and will be greatly missed. Fly high little one, you will be in our hearts forever.

Posted in In Memoriam | 1 Comment

Individual Traits

Don’t you just love the many traits of your birds, that’s both the good and the bad. I love the way some individuals are always on the lookout for new food opportunities. Apart from their layers pellets and layers mash, the birds also get a seed treat later in the day, which makes sure they all not only go to bed with a full crop, but also with a good burning fire inside, especially in the winter months. Then there is the seed tray near the house which is nearly always present for ad lib munches throughout the day (pigeons permitting).

Rosie - Do you remember 'Chicken in the Basket?

Some individuals however, want to venture into the garage, and then if our attention is elsewhere, into the house. Rosie makes it her business to take advantage of any distraction on our part. When spotted she is a past master at avoiding capture, by either hiding behind things, or making a run for it into the house. Rosie, it should be explained is a Hamburgh bantam, being small is a distinct advantage in this particular game. We have found her on top of one of the kitchen work surfaces helping herself to porridge (not ours luckily, but the hens) or more often these days, helping herself to either Molly’s or Oliver’s (our cats) leftover food, which she manages to polish off in seconds. So as you can see, some of our hens need close observation.

Rufus one of our Brahma cockerels (now sadly not with us) enjoyed the attention of the more outgoing brown hens. The video below illustrates the great affection he was held in by some of the birds he shared a coop with. It’s moments like these that makes keeping hens so rewarding.

He just loved being hand fed, so at feed time he would seek me out to have that personal attention he so craved.

Another rooster by the name of Smokey is a Gold Laced Wyandotte bantam, he’s one of our favourite birds. Apart from his stunning good looks, he has a crow like no other. Not in the least bit harsh, it strikes a perfect note.

Smokey is around 5 years old now. He was boss of one of the bantam coops, alas recent new blood has ousted him from that perch, now he prefers the quiet life in his autumn years and now can be found in the brown layers coop. At one time, 3 years ago, he was always with one of the Brahma flocks, following them everywhere, we ended up thinking he was their mascot.

Solitaire with some Silkie and Japanese bantam chicks

I can’t end without mentioning our lovely little Belgium bantam, Solitaire (yet again). Every year she saves the day by acting as surrogate mother. Over the years she must have raised over 50 odd chicks and her devotion to them is without equal. Show Solitaire eggs or chicks and she is on them in a flash. If you look closely, you might just be able to make out her gorgeous whiskers. I guess this is her vocation in life. She is quite elderly now, when she finally hands in her dinner pail, boy are we going to miss her.

Posted in Poultry Behaviour, Poultry Chat | 1 Comment

Spring Fever

Wing Protector Saddle
modeled by one of our Brahma girls

As far as our birds are concerned spring has sprung! Our males are jumping on almost anything that moves, so jackets (saddles) are essential on certain favourite (to the boys) girls. The saddles we are currently using come from the United States. They do take longer to arrive once ordered, but they are handmade, high quality and come in a variety of patterns and colours. Best of all they are half the price of those available in the UK. Go to this page to see them.

With mating hormones pumping through all the males at the moment, we do of course have to put up with fights. The worst offenders by far are the bantams.

A blood covered male bantam

Needless to say we don’t leave them in a bloody state. They receive a full body wash followed by a hair dryer, which they absolutely love. Once they get over the initial shock of a hair dryer, they start to droop and doze off, some even turn their heads to one side to allow the warm air to rush over them.

Some of the boys are persistent offenders in the fighting stakes. We keep a special eye of these. When we see two males facing up to each other, a raised voice is often enough to get them to part, followed by another raised voice with a finger pointing at them. Strangely, our geese don’t seem to like chicken fights near them and will often run at the pair, causing them to part rather quickly. Our guinea fowl also hate fights in their vicinity and will charge at them to great effect.

As befits spring, we have to date raised some Japanese bantams, Vorwerks (a German breed, who share their name with vacuum cleaner apparently) and a small number of large fowl Silkies. All these eggs were hatched with a modern automatic incubator. We then had to find them a brooder. As the Vorwerk chicks were under our only heat lamps, we had to find a suitable broody hen to act as a foster mum, then there would be no need for artificial heat. At this time of year there isn’t any trouble in finding broody hens, we are almost tripping over them.

Solitaire and her adopted chicks

After trying several, the last one of which decided these chicks were definitely not for her and to underline the point she flew out of the brooder and tried to escape by flying hard against the workshop window. Finally, Solitaire came to our rescue. Solitaire is Belgium bantam and who’s whole existence centers on sitting on eggs or brooding chicks. I fetched her up from the Japanese bantam coop (her current home) and showed her the chicks. It was almost as if someone had flicked a switch, she almost immediately started to make that familiar clucking sound, so we put her down near the chicks and she gathered them up.

Returning to our new poultry saddles. The birds themselves clearly think these new ones are ‘the bees knees’. One look at our white Brahma below shows how jealous her neighbours are of such stylish apparel!

Chic Fashion
Posted in Poultry Breeding & Hatching, Poultry Chat | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Chickens & Rats

Our Target

Chickens and rats always seem to go together, where there are hens for any length of time rats are sure to be. It’s the prospect of free food that is the magnet.

Where you store the feed is important. All feed should be in rat proof containers. Ours are stout plastic bins, which so far have kept the rats at bay. Metal containers are probably better, but more expensive. That’s not to say rats are not a problem, they are. They have become quiet a headache in fact. Not content in eating the remains of feed scattered outside, they decided to try and get at the source. To this end they have gnawed a sizable hole in the side of the wooden shed to gain access to hen central.

Rat hole in Shed

In the process of feeding your birds some feed is always spilled and rats take advantage of that. The number of our birds has increased of late, aided by a number of unplanned pregnancies earlier this year. I can recall at least four occasions when I have suddenly come across a mother with her new chicks, all wanting shelter and food. At present we must have getting on for 200, that’s a lot of birds who all need food. So from the rat’s viewpoint it’s the place to be. You can’t go wrong, food remains where ever you look.

We have been doing our best to reduce our rat population, using various methods with mixed results. Having two cats helps a little. Molly (the bird professional) and Oliver (the rodent expert) are brother and sister. Oliver is the one who has made his mark with the rats. During a single week recently he managed to kill a sizable rat and two weasels. All were left at or near our front door, kind of him!

Raticator

Our other line of attack have been with traps. We decided a while back that using poisoned pellets was not an option, too indiscriminate, a danger to wildlife, our birds and cats. To start with we used an electronic rat trap, this has been the only method that has worked. This was placed right against the gaping hole in the shed. We caught quite a number (adults as well as youngsters) during this past summer. Our handyman takes the corpses for his pet owl, who is very grateful I’m sure.

As we entered autumn and then winter the trap stopped catching. Wrongly, we left it there in the vain hope we would eventually start catching them again. What we didn’t know was the trap had been rendered useless. After close examination, we found it had stopped working some time back. The batteries had lost any charge some time ago and as a result, the rats it did attract had peed on it and eaten through wiring. So we’ve now ordered another different model.

Victor M240 Electronic Rat Trap

In the mean time we have been liberally placed spring traps in various place in the shed and elsewhere. Also spring traps inside plastic tunnels scattered around outside. When using spring traps make sure they out of the way of wildlife and domestic pets. For baiting spring traps, we use peanut butter, cheese and occasionally meat of some sort. However, the results so far has been nothing, well apart from a single weasel. Weasels whilst being a real threat to chickens, also eat rats. So we are basically hanging on for the new electronic trap to arrive.

Quite apart from the hole in the shed, the rats has also been nibbling some of the chicken housing. We have a few very small coops with wooden sliding pop hole doors. On three coops they have eaten part of the doors, leaving a significant gap through which they and probably weasels could get through. We have had to fix metal plates on the outside of these doors to plug the gaps and also to stop any more damage to the all important sliding doors.

It’s easy to forget the danger rats pose to the birds themselves. They will take small chicks. even nibble chickens legs and feet. Rats making a comfortable nest in a corner of a coop (INSIDE!) is an experience some hen keepers have had. The thought makes me shudder!

Rat hole bottom of Brahma coop

We can see rat holes and runs all over the place, far more than previously, so our rat problem is in danger of spiralling out of control. The prospect of rats ruling the roost is one we cannot allow, so we’ve go to get to grips with the problem and soon.

Rats are intelligent creatures, they know their surroundings well, so well that they will notice any changes immediately. This poses a problem when setting traps and other devices. It will usually take a while (weeks) before they get used to seeing them in their environment. So catching or killing rats is a time consuming business requiring patience and above all, determination.

We will report back on our success or otherwise soon, so watch this space.

Update April 2015

The traps eventually caught several young rats, but one of our cats caught two large adults. The adult females are the ones we need to catch. Breeding females come with a bounty on their heads.

Further Update August 2015

We decided our rat problem was on a scale that needed professional help. So we engaged the services of Graham Pest Control based in Blairgowrie. Having had 3 visits now by George, who has set baited traps around the place and placed trays of baited wheat underground in rat burrows, we have noticed all the daytime sightings of rats are no more. I have also found 2 bodies outside which I quickly incinerated. So there is hope at the end of the tunnel. This will of course not eliminate the problem, but rather get it down to manageable proportions. It should be pointed out that George was very careful where the poison bait was placed taking into account the hens, our cats and the local wildlife.

Posted in Poultry Chat, Poultry Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slaughter of the Innocents

Today Thursday 13th November, 2014 has been a day I’d rather forget! We left the house for only a brief spell and returned to total carnage.

It was time to scrub and refill the hens drinkers, all 18 or so. I started with the usual small drinkers for the bantams, when I suddenly came across a lot of feathers in a corner near a small coop. I deduced it was a couple of Wyandotte bantams that must of had a scrap. I was walking behind the shed and up to the path leading to the Silkie run and their drinker when I came across a little Hamburgh bantam male who was lying on the grass path dead. Now what on earth has happened here I thought!

Wyandottes, Hamburgh (middle) & White Leghorn

Little did I know this was just the beginning of a very traumatic trail of bodies. Having discovered the bantam Hamburgh male, I then discovered one of our young Gold Brahma males dead. He was lying with his head inside a large tuft of grass, he obviously was doing his best to hide during the attack. This was getting serious. I then discovered several Lohmann Brown girls dead under some of our trees. Oh no, what predator can this be? It was all a bit overwhelming and I needed some assistance to patrol all the land and quickly. The chances are that some are still alive but badly injured and needing help. I approached a couple of near neighbours and thank goodness they came forward to assist. It wasn’t long before they too discovered bodies, a female Brahma, a little Wyandotte bantam girl, a female White Leghorn who was discovered in a neighbouring croft trying to run away, it was becoming a nightmare.

In total we had 14 dead and 7 badly injured. Just about all of them had quite wide teeth marks on their lower end and across their backs. This suggested a dog or perhaps an otter. Otters have been known to butcher entire hen houses of birds. One of our neighbours said they had seen a spaniel trying to get over one of our fences, but thought we were around so we must have seen it.

Gold Brahma (left) & Lohmann Browns

The notable thing about the whole massacre was that all the bodies were still around. No sign of attempts to drag any body away for a meal, so it slowly became a clear that the spaniel seen earlier by a neighbour was probably the culprit. It turned out that the dog in question was owned by another near neighbour and had a track record of invading gardens and even houses in the area.

The injured birds were all in a deep state of shock, we did our best to comfort them and quickly gave them all a spray of antibiotic. We needed some systemic antibiotic from our vet to inject the birds with. With only the two of us treating the injured, one of our neighbours offered to pick up the antibiotic from the vet for us. Most of the injured birds were still in deep shock as the day ends. The next day two of the injured birds were cause for concern. A Brahma female who’s two female companions were killed, was showing no signs of interest in either food or water. Also, a little female Wyandotte bantam female seemed to have lost the use of her legs and was unable to stand at all.

A miserable end!

Some of our birds that met this awful, frightening end to their lives had a lot invested in them. The Brahma male was hatched by us and nurtured whilst a chick and then a grower. In other words lots of time are spent bringing them on, including special feed. To use the example of the Brahma again, Brahmas take two years to fully mature, so you can see it’s a long process from egg to a mature bird. To loose one in this fashion is not only heart breaking it’s costly as well.

Other birds of ours that died that day were Silver Pencilled Hamburghs. These are not easy to find anywhere. Whilst not actually on the rare breeds list, they are comparatively rare and are an old breed developed in Holland and Germany prior to 1700. Obtaining suitable eggs for incubation is time consuming and not always possible.

I’m so upset that on the once occasion they needed me I wasn’t there. All our birds know me by sight and especially the sound of my voice. To think in their panic they probably expected me to come rushing over to rescue them and no help came, that really is very upsetting.

Silver Pencilled Hamburghs with chicks

All dogs need to be on a lead when outside, it’s common sense. Dogs worrying sheep with lambs is one problem crofters here still have to deal with each spring, despite all the signs put up. Amazingly some dog owners still allow their dog to roam freely, causing mayhem where ever they go. Dog owners then create when their beloved pet is shot. I’m only sorry neither of us have a gun licence!

Just to add to our woes, a male Hamburgh bantam who had not been too well for a while, suddenly took a turn for the worst and was loosing his balance and flopping all over the place. The symptoms now were clear, another Marek’s victim. The Hamburgh bantams are unfortunately particularly susceptible to this disease. He was put to sleep promptly.

All in all a very tough day. We were away for less than an hour and in that short time a rampage by a small dog turned everything upside down!

Posted in Poultry Chat | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Guineas

This tale begins on a sunny Sunday afternoon back in August 2013. The lovely weather was being enjoyed by all the birds, many of whom were prostrate in various positions about the garden. Looking around I noticed something in the distance that I couldn’t immediately recognise. Walking up the hill on the gravel path by the Maran’s coop was a bird, but what was it? As it got closer it became clear the bird in question was a Guinea Fowl. How on earth did it get here? It was moving around as if it knew this was home.

21 Bob a Male Guinea Fowl creates a stir

That was our first contact with Bob, or to give him his full name, 21 Bob. He decided early on that he would spend his first night ( and all the subsequent nights) in the Maran coop. His companions were a little puzzled and not a little nervous of his presence. As the days came and went he cemented his presence and soon became a familiar member of the flock. He knew of course he had landed on his feet, in chicken heaven, and he intended to stay.

He struck up a friendship with Bruno the Maran boss of the flock. He and Bruno would often be seen exploring together. I’m not sure Bruno fully approved of the relationship, but mates they certainly looked.

21 Bob & Bruno

As time went by Bob soon discovered the delights of the garage door, outside of which treats were often served. Bob really looked forward to the feeder of wild seeds left outside the door and slowly he struck up friendships with some of the Maran and Black Rock females. His tendency to suddenly charge in all directions though took some getting used to.

He used gates, fence posts and even coop roofs to make his raucous calls from. It soon become clear Bob was calling for a mate. The chances of us finding a female guinea was remote. So for the time being Bob’s calls remained unanswered. That was until I saw an ad over a year later on Skye Classifieds. Donald the Hen in Struan was advertising for sale some Guinea Fowl. I couldn’t believe our luck. I contacted Donald and he kindly sorted out a female for us. I picked her up a few days later. I was a bit taken aback by her size, she was tiny by comparison to Bob, but then she was a youngster. The first thing we did was to clip her wings. We couldn’t bear the prospect of her flying off before she and Bob were even introduced.

Bobette (foreground) a Female Pearl Guinea Fowl with Bob

Having made sure she couldn’t escape in a hurry, we installed her in Bob’s coop that night and wished them luck. Morning came and Bob seemed a bit indifferent to her presence. Later that day we were relieved to see Bob and her together, albeit briefly. Later that week they seemed to have formed a relationship of sorts, he would often charge at her from time to time, probably mistaking her for a competitor. Slowly they became ‘joined at the hip’ and now are always together. It’s a nice feeling to have played a part in their successful union.

There remained one thing outstanding, what to call Bob’s girlfriend. As their relationship was more of a fusion, she acquired the name of Bobette. Nowadays Bob’s calls have stopped almost completely. Bobette on the other hand calls the familiar buckwheat, buckwheat, of a female guinea when she looses sight of Bob. It took a little time, but they now perch side by side at night as well. A success story I’d say!

Posted in Poultry Chat | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Easter Chicks

Japanese bantams - Easter chicks

Japanese bantams - Easter chicks

Our Japanese bantams have done it again! So anxious to be mothers, the Japanese bantams have hatched some chicks just in time for Easter. People talk about Silkies being the best broodies, we do keep Silkies and whilst they are determined would be mothers, the Japanese bantam wins hands down for us.

Their peculiar habit of hatching and brooding as a co-operative team, whilst very endearing, is not the most efficient way of doing things. On this occasion, the team consisted of 4 females, who squabbled all the time when brooding the eggs. Originally, there were 10 eggs, that dwindled to 8, as 2 were not fertile. A later candling revealed 4 had died during development. This breed have what is called a lethal gene which affects the developing embryos, very often this can affect 50% of the hatch. The particular gene in question is responsible for their very short legs, the shortest of all chickens.

Hatching was spread over 3 days and produced 4 chicks. The maternity wing was provided with food and water at floor level and we kept the pop-hole shut most of the time. I had to let in females who wanted to lay and the hole was promptly shut after their exit. It would be so easy for a chick to wander near the open pop-hole and fall out into the run with disastrous consequences. Whilst the work of teaching the chicks to feed and water themselves was divided equally amongst the 4 mums, as the end of the day got nearer just one female on the floor brooded all the chicks. The remaining 3 mothers spent the night as a tight scrum in a nestbox.

Japanese Bantam Group

Japanese Bantam Group

Our love of Japanese bantams revolves around their good nature, reliable egg laying abilities, their longevity (often more than 10 years) and their fantastic good looks. To see Japanese bantams in a group on grass is a wonderful sight, their beautiful fan like tails (huge in proportion to the bird itself), they seem to move around on castors, so short are their legs.

The chicks (finally 4 in number) are now around 10 days old and made their first foray outside today with their mums. The short video below shows them enjoying the evening light. The brown hen is Solitaire, a Belgium bantam. Show Solitaire an unattended egg and she’s on it in a flash, one of the best mothers we have ever had.

Posted in Poultry Behaviour, Poultry Breeding & Hatching, Poultry Chat | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emotional Side Of Keeping Poultry

For many keepers of free range poultry it is a passionate hobby that gives immense pleasure and satisfaction. Watching your birds grow from chicks into fully grown adults is an amazing experience, no matter how many times you incubate eggs, the miracle of new life continues to astonish.

Smokey In Happier Days

Smokey In Happier Days

You cannot help but get attached to birds you tend every day. Each one is unique and has a personality of its own. Hens are social animals with the ability to remember faces, so they have friends and also enemies they would rather avoid. You can see this in action when the birds go to roost. There is a lot of pecking as each individual jockey for position, some wanting to be next to their friends, whilst others want the highest roosting bar. It can be very entertaining to watch. To listen to the noise, you could easily think someone was getting murdered. Eventually, the noise subsides, giving way to purring sounds as the birds start to groom, others forgo the grooming and put their heads under their wing. Finally when it’s almost silent, individuals or groups emit a

      lovely high pitched squeal
as a prelude to sleep.

Silver Laced Wyandottes Roosting

Silver Laced Wyandottes

As we all know, poultry are subject to diseases of all kinds. We have had continuing problems with Mycoplasma and Marek’s disease. To watch a bird such as a Hamburgh cockerel or hen slowly succumb to Marek’s is very distressing for the bird and heartbreaking for the owner. In the final stages of this disease, the bird can barely stand, unable to feed or water itself, the only outcome is a slow and painful death. It is necessary to intervene long before this stage is reached, knowing that this disease is almost always fatal. Doing the right thing is very difficult, especially when it involves an animal you love, but our compassion for another living being suffering in this way is what it takes if you are a responsible owner. When you have raised them from an egg it is doubly painful to put them down.

Smokey and Friend

Smokey and Friend

Our little Smokey, has been knocked off his perch at the top of a group of Wyandotte bantams and he is very upset. Last year’s chicks are now all adult and there are some beefy males amongst them, one of whom has assumed Smokey’s position. Today has been rain all day and at locking up time, poor Smokey was spotted trying to shelter near a coop and not succeeding. Whenever he goes near his former group of girls he gets chased away, poor lad. I managed to scoop him up into my arms and carry him down to the garage, here at least he will be warm and dry. Having popped him into a large brooder he got some wild bird seed and water, he will spend the night here dry and safe from his persecutors. We are very fond of Smokey, he’s another character with his bustling walk and extraordinary crow, which funnily enough is very tuneful and as clear as a bell with no harsh notes at all.

The next day Smokey was released back into the garden to enjoy the sunshine. Later in the afternoon, he was seen with a little admirer, a very petite Silver Laced Wyandotte girl. I guess he’s feeling a little more wanted now.

Miss Gossip - Cuckoo Maran

Miss Gossip - Cuckoo Maran

Miss Gossip died today. She was another character, she acquired this name because she was always talking to herself. Miss Gossip loved going into the garage, where wild bird seed was on offer for those who dared and she dared quite a lot. She also had a irritating habit of jumping over a modest fence into one of our garden flower borders, where she would happily scratch away until she got noticed and was chased off. She managed to really get me going with that habit! This morning I noticed Miss Gossip’s comb had shrivelled and she was gasping for breath sitting in the run. I picked her up and brought her into the garage and into a brooder out of the wet. She died 10 minutes or so later. At least she passed away in a warm dry place where she was not forgotten.

Just to show that poultry are more than just automatons, we got a number of White Leghorns last year and among them was a little gem who is now called Angela. When we first got her she was in a sorry state, she was unable to open her eyes for some reason, we suspected poor bedding where ammonia is allowed to build up unchecked. She was extremely nervous of almost everything. She was not happy at all with the other hens and was not feeding.

Angela

Angela - White Leghorn

We decided to bring her into the house for a while. She was placed into a large brooder in a spare bathroom and provided with all the essentials. The other important thing apart from food and water was her desire to be loved. She craved attention and rewarded us by slowly revealing her delightful personality. Each day Brian usually cuddled her and would talk to her in the hope of making her come out of her protective shell. It took a while, but in the end her personality shone through. Angela loves being handled and now she is probably one of the most pushy hens around. She spends each night in her en-suite bathroom brooder and during the day when she wants to lay an egg, she makes a very audible noise (which we can often hear in the house), telling us she wants to lay her egg in her own lodgings.

So each and every one of our birds, whilst not all having names, are equally cared for and cherished. Providing us with hours of entertainment and often food for thought. They are complex, social creatures that have a long association with us humans, long may it continue.

We came across a lady on the web who owns and runs a sanctuary in Virginia in the States. Her web site ‘United Poultry Concerns’ promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Lots to read and learn, well worth a visit.

Posted in Poultry Behaviour, Poultry Chat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment